Elmore James

Blues Kingpins

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The CDs in The Right Stuff's Blues Kingpins series collections are, for the price, simply the finest money can buy in that they include tracks that may have been overlooked but are at least as necessary to an artist's oeuvre as her or his hits. In other words, the Blues Kingpins series is for connoisseurs of excellent performances and discriminating material. In addition, fine mastering, aesthetically pleasing packaging, an excellent track selection, and a wonderful set of biographical and critical liner notes accompany each volume. The Elmore James volume is a case in point. While it's true that James' biggest hit, his version of "Dust My Broom," the anthemic slide blues tune (which is not included, although his 1956 remake, "Dust My Blues," is) was issued in 1949, the sides documented on this CD were recorded for the Bihari Brothers' Flair label beginning in 1952. "Lost Woman Blues" and "Rock My Baby Right," while recorded in that year, were not issued until 1954, but his subsequent session recorded in Chicago and issued in 1953, including the hit "I Believe" (which went to number nine on the R&B chart), was issued on another Bihari imprint, Meteor. These 1953 sessions also yielded James' interpretations of "Crossroads" and "Make My Dream Come True." There are 18 cuts in all here, covering not only the aforementioned labels but also Modern, Chief, and Vee-Jay, ending with "Goodbye Baby" in 1959. What is heard here is the development in James' trademark style and how the recording studio could affect the inspiration in his performances. There are no ramshackle recordings here, nothing but inspired, slamming rough and tumble blues and R&B shouters that rock harder than almost anything coming from the rock & roll side of the fence -- Chuck Berry, Johnny Burnette, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Conway Twitty excepted. This is a solid hour of burning meltdown blues in the grand pre-rock tradition.

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